Undressing the Excessive Image: The Essay Film as a Transgressive Mode of Inquiry

DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.2020.13 | Issue 4 | June 2020

Júlia Machado

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro


Abstract


This article examines the making of Transgressions (2015), a short essay film I made on transgressions in art films. There, the theme moves from being a mapped object of knowledge to become a territory that provides the resources for film production and storytelling. As I question to what extent the erotic body is excessive in art films, I observe the essay film becomes a poetic-reflective generator in itself. I end by arguing that we observe the process of making an essay film as a mode of inquiry that includes in its thinking process both unpredictable encounters with the materials and intuitive choices in the editing room, something that a solely analytical or theoretical approach could hardly provide.


Transgressions (2015) by Júlia Machado.


Introduction


Transgressions (2015) is a short essay film that I made as a connecting thread between the theory and the practice in my PhD research. Although the essay is a production in its own right, it is a work-in-progress also, mainly conceived as a phase of research and preparation for the subsequent short performative films of my project: Bliss (2016), Femme (2016) and Paradise (2016). Based on contemporary film and video production and historical archives, it works as a laboratory where I have the first insights derived from the physical contact with the cinematic materials. All four of these films can be watched in full below.


Transgressions (2015). By Júlia Machado.


Bliss (2016). By Júlia Machado.


Femme (2016). By Júlia Machado.


Paradise (2016). By Júlia Machado.


In the making of Transgressions (2015), itself the focus of this article, I start to generate and elaborate my take into the subject of transgression in art films. There, the theme moves from being a mapped object of knowledge to become a territory that provides the resources for film production and storytelling. As I question to what extent the erotic body is excessive in art films, I observe the essay film becomes a poetic-reflective generator in itself. As Laura Mulvey (2006) notes in Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image, we think of cinema differently when we manipulate its materials in the editing room.

Desmond Bell (2006) observes that film studies have paid little attention to the generative processes of filmmaking practice. In this article, as I present my reflections on the process of making the film, I intend to contribute to the ways we think of the erotic body in the cinema, but also the cinema itself as a mode of inquiry. Along the way, the subject and the research’s methodology become interlaced, and the unexpected encounters they generate require, in turn, a dynamic thinking process under the circumstances.


1. A First Insight


As an initial strategy, I revisited an extensive repertoire of films in order to put the subject into a historical perspective. My initial idea was to collect a visual repertoire that was as broad as possible from the most different genres and styles in order to have both an overview and a corporeal sense of the different manifestations. I thus began by listing the most emblematic cases, but new representative titles would appear every day during the process of research and collection. Surely, a limit should be established, a criterion for the choice and artistic immersion in this vast repertoire.

Quite intuitively, as someone who stumbles upon a method in their quest, I began to select and ‘undress’ some scenes from their presentational context in the editing room. Through hands-on work on the scenes as if they were raw film materials, I noticed that I was touching and altering something fundamental about their very experience. As soon as the first ‘cut and pastings’ happened in the editing room, I could see a transformation in process.

By withdrawing the images from their original film contexts, I realised I was also removing or changing the very force of their experience and could see them in their allure as mere tangible corporeal spectacles. The images seemed to maintain a certain poetic visuality, but they were devoid of meaning – so easily interchangeable as they were depending on what I decided to combine them with, the previous and the following images, the music, the narration, the pauses and texts, the rhythm of the cuts. The very importance of the context for the impression produced by them became then experientially clear to me in the very process of editing. At the same time, there was something within the film materials that pointed to an external body, and that which resisted a total erasure. The original context and impression remained there for me in the scenes as a virtual presence somehow.


Bodily excesses are usually taken as a mark of transgressive arts in general, whose tendency since the mid-nineteenth century has been to challenge the classical representational regime, in which the body is excluded in its variety of forms, violent impulses and abounding organic materials. As Martine Beugnet maintains, corporeal excesses are inserted in art cinema as the ‘other,’ excluded from modernity: the non-rational, the non-progressive and the non-linear, thus subverting the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ (2012: 33-4). The very concept of excess in cinema finds its definition in the classical separation between the narrative cause-effect chain of events and the physicality of corporeal presences and performances. In her influential article ‘The Concept of Cinematic Excess,’ Kristin Thompson (2004) explains that the idea of ‘excess’ appears in relation to the material aspects of the image that are not or cannot be homogenized in the narrative structure. She refers back to Stephen Heath’s (1975) elaborations, and criticises the parameter against which ‘excess’ is understood in cinema, the classical Hollywood narrative style.


The association between body and excess brings in a problem of parameters indeed. How to define what is excessive in the cinema? If corporeal content such as sex scenes may be seen as excessive in art films if compared to mainstream films, they may as well be considered fairly economic if we take pornographic films as the parameter instead.

The hands-on work thus allowed me to have a first insight into my subject. In contrast with the idea that a certain content or style brings in an inherent excess with it, the experience with the images at the editing room led me to consider the role of the presentational mode and context in the impression of excess a content might exert. Whereas the theoretical approaches often associate a poetics of transgression with the idea of excess, then I start to dissociate excess in content and style to excess at the level of experience. Later in the research I go further to show why excess is a fragile parameter that fails to explain the more complex film strategies and emotional dynamics of art film transgressions.


2. Methodology


I started the process collecting and selecting historical films inside the ‘frame’ of transgression in cinema. Considering that besides the presentational context, the historical and socio-cultural contexts also inform the ways we perceive and produce cinematographic images, I realised that a proper reflection on the nature and effect of these materials would demand me an effort of contextualization. Although seduced with the idea of making a version similar to the outstanding essay film series Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998) by Jean-Luc Godard [1], I was aware that a historical take on the theme would demand another methodology and time frame for the production. Transgressions was meant to be part of a research process and its entire production should not take more than three-months.

As I aimed to establish a first reflection on the subject of the erotic body and transgression in art films, I opted then to work with examples that could be significant in the contemporary context. Thus, I avoided the need to delve into a historical contextualization by situating my reflection in the same cultural context as my project’s practical productions. Once films working with such contents are often regarded as excessive, my question was whether this corresponded to any objective aspect or to an impression the films leave on the viewers.

I selected two cases of contemporary art films whose content has been seen as excessive somehow, either: a) through its effect and the public repercussions, such as in Praia do Futuro (Futuro Beach) (2014) by Karim Aïnouz; or b) through self-censorship and market restrictions, such as in the case of Nymphomaniac I & II Director’s Cut (2013) by Lars von Trier. Finally, to expand the scope and include a comparison with other modes of presentation of sex on-screen, I selected a scene from a standard pornographic video available on the Internet at the Porn Hub: the video, Danish Girl Darla Plays with a Huge Cock (2014). The final assembly includes a prologue which shows only a small part of a wider process of collection and selection of films from different stylistic branches such as pornographic film, art film, experimental and avant-garde cinema, stag films and sex comedies.

3. The Essay film as a Transgressive Way of Writing and Thinking


The essay film has been regarded as a transgressive form in itself: a category of films that are difficult to define, whose open and fragmentary narratives relate back to the literary essay. In her article The Essay Film: Problems, Definitions, Textual Commitments, Laura Rascaroli observes that ‘Transgression is a characteristic that the essay film shares with the literary essay’ (2008: 25). She notes that the literary essay is often described as a protean form, and that the definitions of both literary and filmic essays tend to be vague and sweeping. Even the preeminent theorists, Theodor Adorno (1991) and Georg Lukács (1974), both describe the essay as an ‘indeterminate, open, and, ultimately, indefinable’ form (idem). Since it is hard to pin down, Rascaroli points to elusiveness and inclusiveness as the only two characterising features of the essayistic.


If the essay film borrows elements from the literary essay, it also offers other poetic and epistemological possibilities due to the film medium. The essayistic mode of writing in cinema is highly hybrid as it cuts across different genres and film materials and contains other expressive layers beside the text. A great number of essay films indeed rely on the use of film archives and tend to exhibit a diversified materiality. Jihoon Kim (2016) notes that found footage practices are inherently experimental, impure and hybrid considering their materials’ diverse ontologies in both physical (celluloid, video, digital) and time-based terms (duration, fragmentation, compilation, rhythm). These materials are subject to alterations in their visuals and texture as technical transitions happen from one medium to another. The found footage film is in many ways impure in relation to its original material and contexts and tends to provide a hybrid of colours, contrasts and shapes as a result of its compilation.


In the attempts to cover its ever singular, authorial approaches and styles, the form finds different denominations, such as ‘essay film,’ ‘film essay,’ ‘video essay,’ ‘visual essay,’ ‘videographic criticism’ and ‘found footage film.’ A more specific tradition in the field can be found in the Russian avant-garde and the work of filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein. The form would later be associated with the Nouvelle-Vague, the term essai cinématographic being of frequent use in the 1950s together with the concept of caméra-stylo advocated by Alexandre Astruc [2] and the films of Chris Marker, Agnès Varda, Jean Luc-Godard, Alain Resnais and Astruc himself (Kuhn and Westwell, 2012) [3]. On the challenges implied in defining the essay film as a film genre, Kim (2016) summarises:

The essay film, which emerged in postwar Europe and has been increasingly significant in contemporary film culture, is viewed as a nebulous method of filmmaking that crosses the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction cinema; documentary and experimental film; the personal and the public; and the intellectual and the poetic […] The transgressive, hybrid, and complicated characteristics of the essay film undoubtedly make its definition extremely divergent, suggesting that it is arguably a mode of film practice that reveals, tests, and goes beyond the structural and generic limits of cinema (197-98).

In more recent years, a trend of film essays dedicated to film criticism has developed with the possibilities offered by video and the digital technologies, with an increasing number of film critics and scholars thus becoming essayistic filmmakers. Directly made on and with film materials, a rising number of videographic articles have gained interest from established and well-regarded film publications and journals, which have been dedicating special issues to the subject. The essay film as videographic analyses and criticism has gained force not only as a complement to but as a substitute of textual film analyses in many cases. A milestone in this process has been the journal [in] Transition [4], edited by Catherine Grant, dedicated to the publication and validation of essay films as academic publications – which has played a crucial role in thinking about the form and expanding the field.

As it offers film critics and scholars the possibility of using the same language found in their analytical materials, this new form of writing also poses new questions beyond the field of cinema proper. The essayistic film analyses and criticism challenge the separations between object and subject, art production and criticism, the poetic and reflexive, and ultimately, the hierarchical position between written and audiovisual writing in the production of knowledge.


The re-workings also make unavoidable changes in the transition from one presentational context to the other. Rather than seeing this as a problem, however, Kim (2016) emphasises the potential of such transformations to produce new meanings. He notes that the point is less to observe the originals as citations, as happens in the case of texts, than as copying in a new production. Copy is then understood less as a reproduction, a simple duplication of the image, and more as a repetition in Gilles Deleuze’s (1994) terms, where transformation and reformulation happen to the image. As Kim puts it, ‘the resulting image […] is marked by the distance between past and present, as well as by the interplay between the original film’s specific qualities and the varying degrees of videographic and digital promiscuity’ (2016: 151).

Andrew McWhirter (2015) notes some might still fear issues regarding copyright even though the essay films and videos, video criticism included, are covered by fair use [5] and fair dealing conventions. In an interview with McWhirter, American film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, defended that ‘critics have nothing to fear from working with copyrighted material’ (2015: 374). McWhirter notes that prolific video essayists, such as Kevin B. Lee, who first had his video essays removed from YouTube for copyright infringements, were able to reinsert them a week later based on the fair use defense. Likewise, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies explains in a document:

Fair use is permitted because some uses of copyrighted works offer greater value to society than they do harm to the copyright holder; fair use is decided on a case by case basis by balancing a variety of issues. […] Through the development of case law and a pivotal Supreme Court case, analyzing fair use often begins by considering two questions […]: (1) Did the user employ copyrighted works with a transformative purpose that differs from the original? (2) Did the user employ only as much as necessary for that transformative purpose? […] Answering yes to both these questions is a strong indication that a particular use is fair (SCMS, 2010: 180-81).

In regards to style, Christian Keathley (2011) has identified two modes of essay film: the explanatory and the poetic. More often than not, essay films present a mixture of both, however, the explanatory, at its extreme, can compromise the openness that is proper to the form. According Jean-François Lyotard (1984), the essay is a postmodern form precisely because of its processual condition, as it affirms ‘there is no truth, just truth-making,’ which in turn makes it a ‘genre of absence’ (81).

Besides offering a reflective dimension in its form, the essay film may also invite reflection and analysis in its practical process, i.e. its mode of production reveals the potential for another way of thinking. More often than not writing in film includes aesthetic experiences in the making where the cutting-and-pastings, dislocations and mixings of the materials allow new insights and reflections to emerge. The corporeal, affective impressions in working directly on the materials tend to generate new insights. As Laura Mulvey (2006) points out, ‘video and digital media have opened up new ways of seeing old movies. The unexpected encounters that emerge out of this meeting of technologies are familiar to anyone who has experimented with them, from film scholar to film fan’ (8).


By producing encounters between scenes and images from the different films, an aesthetic experience may sometimes occur. Jadranka Skorin-Kapov (2015) argues in The Aesthetics of Desire and Surprise: Phenomenology and Speculation, an aesthetic experience is not exclusive to art works, although it tends to happen there. For an aesthetic experience to happen, there must be a desire for the unforeseen encounter in the first place, and from that desire, one projects and is ready to benefit from chance as that which goes beyond and exceeds cognitive expectation. As she further argues, there must be a desire for the unexpected encounter in order for it to make sense as an experience. The author speaks of an openness and a search for irreducible surprise as an inclination to go beyond, to transgress.

4. Art Film Excesses: A Videographic Analysis

The two art films selected for the analysis, Praia do Futuro and Nymphomaniac I & II Director’s Cut, were released in almost the same year, yet they present a significant difference in the way they work with sexual content on screen: whereas in Aïnouz’s film, sex is punctual and non-explicit; in von Trier’s film, especially in the director’s cut version, sex is not only a central theme but is also presented with unrestrained explicit details on the screen, making use of some of the same stylistic procedures as pornographic films on several occasions.


We have two ways of staging sex: In Aïnouz’s film, the corporeality of the scene is built through performance and framing. The camera is placed close to the actor’s upper bodies and the enhanced sound of breathing also help to create the cinematic experience in which most is not shown but imagined. In the case of von Trier’s film, on the contrary, an obscene corporeal effect is invited through extreme visuality, where trickery is even used to substitute the main cast with porn actors’ bodies. Here, body doubles are not there for risky life-death scenes, but for the performance of sexual acts with hard-core details and accuracy.


Whereas von Trier’s film made a broad and affirmative disclosure of the obscene dimension of its sexual contents, offering two versions in the market, with and without cuts – a self-censorship procedure that was also used as a promotional strategy; Aïnouz’s film, on the contrary, not only did not exploit its sexual content but was indeed spoiled somehow by moralistic repercussions even though the film has no explicit sex scenes. Despite being well received in the international festivals, Praia do Futuro was rejected by a certain segment of the public in its home country, Brazil, where some spectators left complaining during the screening and a rumour was created that a cinema in the state of Paraiba had stamped a warning on the tickets, which was later denied. Either way, the case made it ‘explicit’ that homosexuality is a contradictory subject in Brazil – a country where gay marriage is legally allowed but that is also estimated to have the highest number of homophobic crimes in the world [6].

The presence of Wagner Moura in the leading role in Praia do Futuro must have contributed to the film’s release, but also to it attracting more than a niche audience. It is worth noting that the actor, Wagner Moura, who plays the leading role, became famous in the country as the character Captain Nascimento in the film Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) (2007) by José Padilha. In this film Nascimento is a virile heteronormative type, married and with a daughter, who fights criminality in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. In Praia do Futuro, the character Donato shares some of the same features with Captain Nascimento considering their profession and ethical issues: he is a lifeguard who faces the dangerous Futuro beach [7] with courage to save people from drowning. However, whereas Tropa de Elite affirms a violent heteronormative affection and agenda, Praia do Futuro emphasizes a homosexual love relationship, dealing with the intimate issues Donato faces after falling in love with Konrad and moving to Berlin to live together with him.

The fact that Wagner Moura plays a typical heteronormative character in Tropa de Elite and a homosexual type with some continuities and ruptures with the previous one might have helped to introduce a certain ‘obscene effect’ for some viewers in Brazil in spite of the reasonably mild intimate scenes the film presents. The actor’s corporeal presence introduces an index and a hypertext that informs the film experience in contrast with expectations that might accompany the star considering his previous role. Thus, the presence of the star might contribute to enhancing a certain provocative character that the film might exert considering the close association between the actor’s figure and body and that of Capitan Nascimento. The director’s choice, based on the actor’s wish to play this role, reveals a political awareness that cannot be fully accessed through the film text only, but through its socio-cultural context and environment, including other cultural productions. This case exemplifies and combines some of the complexities related to what we consider transgressive and excessive in cinema, especially if put side by side with other contemporary art films.

Are the scenes in Praia do Futuro excessive? Given the reactions of the public, yes. On the other hand, if we compare this film with Nymphomaniac I & II, both the director’s and the producer’s cut, the scene would be seen as prudish. Although both are art films dealing with sexuality and relationships as their main subject, the approaches found in Praia do Futuro and Nymphomaniac are widely different, including their ‘degrees of explicitness,’ so to speak. That is also true if we compare Ainoüz’s film with another art film dealing with a male homosexual relationship released around the same time, L’Inconnu du Lac (Stranger by the Lake) by Alain Guiraudie (2013). These art films are however fairly economic in their sex scenes if compared to a short pornographic video available on the Internet.

Explicit or not, real or fake, the erotic force of the actor and actress’ physical presence and performances work as visual evidence that tricks the eyes in the ways they invite bodily sensations and play with expectation and imagination. For different reasons, and at odds with what one could conclude by seeing Praia do Futuro and Nymphomaniac I&II Director’s Cut side by side – the first more intimate and mild, the other more exhibitionist and hard-core – both find repercussions among the public mainly due to the taboo sexual content they present. Whereas this suggests that such corporeal content may disturb the film experience for some viewers it also shows this could be less due to the degree of explicitness or amount of corporeal content than to the role some choices and devices play in their different presentational and cultural contexts.


5. On the Choices of Narrative and Style

Transgressions (2015) by Júlia Machado.

Transgressions opens with a brief prologue composed of a selection of sex images extracted from films made in different historical and stylistic contexts. Even though some emblematic examples of sex in art films are not included in this introduction precisely because they deserved better attention in the ways of presenting them, I decided to select a few extracts from the archives to be brought together in a montage. My intention was to give the viewer a sense of a history of transgressions and to signalize both the existence of a certain diversity of forms and of a change in what we consider excessive and obscene through time. Intentionally incomplete, the selection serves as an introductory frame for the analysis that follows.

In the analytical part, I focus on selecting the scenes from Praia do Futuro and Nymphomaniac I & II, and to compare them with a contemporary pornographic video. From Praia do Futuro, I have chosen to include the scenes that present moments of intimacy in the homosexual relationship between the Brazilian (Donato) and the German (Konrad). In Nymphomaniac, I have chosen one of the many daring sex scenes of Joe, a threesome arranged between the protagonist with two unknown black men – the match corresponds to one of the protagonist’s many sexual fantasies. The choice was mainly due to the hard-core extreme visuality found in the Director’s Cut version.


Having the contemporary films as my framework, I sought to make an ironic argument based on the analysis of this content as being obscene and excessive. The text in the narration thus analyses the stylistic aspects of the scenes extracted from the films in contrast with a standard pornographic video that has open and free access on the Internet. I also included information in the text about their respective production strategies and dissemination, repercussions and market constraints, thus building up an objective and reasonable discourse.

In contrast with a more standard documentary voice-over, where the authorial presence happens through the ‘voice of God’ directed towards the viewer, a typical device in the expository mode according to Bill Nichols (1991) [8]; in the film essay, narration tends not to affirm but to question the position of truth. I chose not to include myself as a character but to use the ‘voice of God’ style of speech as a way of producing a formal tension between the different tones and layers. In other words, I sought to promote an encounter and a tension between the objective and distant analytical reasoning imprints in the discourse and the corporeal proximity and eroticism that the borderline sexual images invite, thus aiming at a cognitive ambivalence on the level of experience.

Even though it is my voice in the narration, literally speaking, my writing should also be felt in other layers, such as in the choice and combination of materials, the lettering, the soundtrack, the operations and rhythm of the montage. Indeed, it was my aspiration that my presence became as diffused as possible in the many cinematic layers of voice and positions of truth. Cinematic language provides devices to make a point evident but also to question it as a final, definitive and satisfying answer.


6. Final Reflection

The essay film proved to be a stimulating research method as it provided me the conditions for reflection and analysis through hands-on access to a vast historical repertoire, even though only a very small portion of the films and film extracts I collected indeed appear in the final production. I am well aware that emblematic cases, such as Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma (Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini or Ai no Korîda (In the Realm of the Senses) (1976) by Nagisa Ôshima, were left out and I hoped to have included them. In spite of the limitations, the process offered me the opportunity to connect with a comprehensive historical film archive, which was an important stage in the research project as a whole.


What could otherwise be a dispersed phase into a vast repertoire gains focus in the practical process. The physical contact and operations made in the editing room indeed allowed me have a corporeal sense of the materials and to produce a reflection on the borders and encounters between films and film styles. The corporeal contact with and creative handling of these materials in the editing room required me to elaborate, as an artist-researcher, my own look and voice with regard to transgression as a thematic and aesthetic territory in cinema.


The process of reflection in the making created the possibility of bringing to light the fragility of excess as a parameter and the complexity involved in the experiential effects of transgression in art films. The film provides indications that such effects might vary according to different modes of production but also addresses the role certain production choices and promotional strategies play in the public’s expectations and how they might, ultimately, affect the experience.

The greater or lesser visuality of the bodies, the differences in the types of performance, the length of the shots, the various approaches to themes and content were in fact remarkable among the different films. But also, for that very reason, they could not appear as sufficient criteria to demarcate the border between the artistic and the non-artistic transgressions. The films’ shocking effects were also found less in the elements of the image as visuality than in what they imprinted as an absence. Here I had the first intuition that the vital force of transgression in art films is not necessarily found in the film material, as the usual emphases given to excessive bodies and extreme visuality. In the attempt to translate that impression, I found in Praia do Futuro an example of how the measure of excess is highly relative as a parameter and inadequate for thinking of art film transgressions in their political-affective impact.


The challenge was to satisfy my aspiration that the essay film Transgressions combined both a poetic and a critical dimension. By presenting borderline sexual content framed with an argumentative narration in voice-over, my intention was less to expose an argument than to provoke possibly a reflexive tension within the film’s structure. In other words, the film form aims to invite ambiguous feelings in the encounter it performs between logical reasoning and sexual content. Even though the narrational text suggests a voice of authority, it has no intention to provide a final answer but to remain incomplete, which I believe is consistent with both the film’s proposal and the open narrative feature that marks the essayistic genre.

The film remains a work-in-progress, standing as a relevant attempt on my part to produce a poetic reflection on the theme. After the feedback I received in the conference World Cinema and the Essay Film held by the Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures at the University of Reading (30th April - 2nd May 2015) [9], I realised the film’s prologue generates great interest and fascination, and would deserve to be expanded. Later, I also found it would benefit from another, more professional voice-over narration. Still I decided to keep the production unchanged, assuming its unfinished condition and maintaining it precisely as it was when screened at the event.

Most importantly, the reflections that emerged in the process of making and afterwards confirmed my intuition about the essay film as a mode of production, which is also yet to be further approached as a research and reflective method in itself. I thus suggest we observe its process of making also as a mode of inquiry that includes both unpredictable encounters with the materials and intuitive choices in the editing room as a constitutive part of its thinking process, and in ways that a pure analytical or theoretical approach could hardly provide.


References

  • Adorno, T. (1991) Notes to Literature. Vol. 1, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, Translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia U.P.

  • Astruc, A. (2011) ‘The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Caméra-Stylo’, in Critical Visions in Film Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings, edited by Timothy Corrigan, Patricia White and Meta Mazaj, 350-54. Boston, Mass: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

  • Bell, D. (2006) ‘Creative Film and Media Practice as Research: In Pursuit of that Obscure Object of Knowledge’, Journal of Media Practice 7 (2): 85-100.

  • Beugnet, M. (2012) Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Edinburg U.P.

  • Deleuze, G. (1994) Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Athlone Press.

  • Grant, C., Grizzaffi, C., Keathley, C., and Morton, D. (2018) ‘[in]Transition’, Journal of Cinema & Media Studies and Media Commons (December 11) http://mediacommons.org/intransition/.

  • Heath, S. (1975) ‘Film and System: Terms of Analysis Part I’, Screen 16 (1): 7-77.

  • Keathley, C. (2011) ‘La Camera-stylo: Notes on Video Criticism and Cinephilia’, in The Language and Style of Film Criticism, edited by Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan, 176–91. London: Routledge.

  • Kim, J. (2016) Between Film, Video, and the Digital. Hybrid Moving Images in the Post-Media Age. New York/London: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Kuhn, A. and Westwell, G. (2012) A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford: Oxford U.P.

  • Lukács, G. (1974) ‘On the Nature and Form of the Essay’, In Soul and Form. Translated by Anna Bostock. London: Merlin Press.

  • Lyotard, J-F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • McWhirter, A. (2015) ‘Film Criticism, Film Scholarship and the Video Essay’, Screen 56 (3): 369-77.

  • Mulvey, L. (2006) Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books.

  • Nichols, B. (1991) Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana U.P.

  • Rascaroli, L. (2008) ‘The Essay Film: Problems, Definitions, Textual Commitments’, Framework 49 (2): 24-47.

  • Scandinavia Exposed. (2014) ‘Danish Girl Darla Plays with a Huge Cock.’ Porn Hub Video, 12’35. https://www.pornhub.com/view_video.php?viewkey=1206582316.

  • SCMS. 2010. ‘Society for Cinema and Media Studies Statement of Fair Use Best Practices for Media Studies Publishing’, Cinema Journal 49 (4): 179-85.

  • Skorin-Kapov, J. (2015) The Aesthetics of Desire and Surprise: Phenomenology and Speculation. London: Lexington Books.

  • Thompson, K. (2004) ‘The Concept of Cinematic Excess’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, edited by Leo Braudy & Marshall Cohen, 513-24. New York & Oxford: Oxford U.P.


Filmography

  • Aïnouz, K. (2014) Praia do Futuro. Brazil / Germany: Coração da Selva. DVD.

  • Godard, J-L., dir. (1988-1998) Histoire(s) du cinema. France: Gaumont. DVD.

  • Guiraudie, A. (2013) L’Inconnu du Lac. France: Les Films du Worso. DVD.

  • Machado, J. (2015) ‘Transgressions.’ Denmark. 16m. https://vimeo.com/juliamachadofilms/transgressions.

  • Machado, J. (2016) ’Bliss.’ Denmark. 6m. https://vimeo.com/juliamachadofilms/blisslink.

  • Machado, J. (2016) ’Femme.’ Denmark. 6m. https://vimeo.com/juliamachadofilms/femmelink.

  • Machado, J. (2016) ’Paradise.’ Denmark. 6m. https://vimeo.com/juliamachadofilms/paradise.

  • Ôshima, N., dir. (1976) Ai no Korîda. Japan / France: Argos Films. DVD.

  • Padilha, J. (2007) Tropa de Elite. Brazil / USA / Argentina: Zazen Produções. DVD.

  • Pasolini, PP. (1975) Salò o le 120 Giornate di Sodoma. Italy / France. Produzioni Europee Associate (PEA). DVD.

  • Von Trier, L. (2013) Nymphomaniac I & II Director’s Cut. Denmark / Germany / Belgium / UK / France / Sweden: Zentropa Entertainments. DVD.

Notes


[1] The series of videos is composed of eight parts with the first video released in late 1988 and the last one ten years later in 1998.

[2] In his famous article The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: The Camera Pen (2011), first published as Du Stylo à la caméra et de la caméra au stylo in L’Ecran Français (1948).

[3] Also related to the essay film tradition are avant-garde filmmakers, such as Chantal Akerman, Harun Farocki, Third Cinema’s Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, and a number of filmmakers associated with New German Cinema. In a Dictionary of Film Studies, the authors include a more recent branch of performative or reflexive ‘new’ documentary as well, such as films of Errol Morris, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Jill Godmilow, Peter Watkins, and Patrick Keiller (Kuhn and Westwell, 2012).

[4] [in]Transition is a collaboration between Media Commons and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ official publication, Journal of Cinema & Media Studies. Available at: http://mediacommons.org/intransition/

[5] At Stanford University Library’s webpage on copyright & fair use, attorney at law Rich Stim explains: “In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an infringement”.

Available at: https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/what-is-fair-use/.

[6] According to the NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia, a homosexual was killed in every nineteen hours in Brazil in 2017 and the number has increased 30% from the previous year. Despite a lack of official numbers, the group collects data based on news reports. Available at: https://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/assassinatos-de-lgbt-crescem-30-entre-2016-2017-segundo-relatorio-22295785.

[7] The film’s title and the beach’s name in Portuguese both mean ‘the beach of the future’ and ‘the future beach’ and this is quite suggestive of the character’s fate and journey.

[8] Bill Nichols’ six modes of documentary are: poetic, expository, observational, participatory, reflexive and performative.

[9] The production was submitted as a paper and presented in the conference. Set as part of the special screenings together with other essay films, the organizers invited me for a Q&A at the end of the session with the participating scholars and students in the audience.

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